Daycare Costs, Divorce, and Child Support in New Jersey

On top of basic child support both parents have a duty to contribute to the cost of the custodial parent’s work-related childcare expenses.Work-related childcare expenses are not limited to the cost of placing a child in daycare. Work-related childcare can also include: after-school care, care provided prior to school, having a person in your house who cares for the child (e.g., a nanny), care provided during the summer months at a daycamp, or other camp.

With regards to childcare, one of the more common areas of disagreement between parents is: who decides where the child will go for childcare? One parent may be insistent on a childcare experience which includes an educational and socializing experience for the child outside of the house, whereas the other parent may not want their child left with “strangers”, and they will insist on family members taking care of the child.

Another area of disagreement is how much should be paid for daycare. The childcare provider whose program includes an educational and socializing component is usually much more expensive than the family member caregiver. As well, the parents have to figure out whether full-time or part-time care makes more sense.

There is no one answer to the question of who decides the type of care and the cost. If the parents have joint legal custody they will have to work together to find a childcare provider at a price that they can agree upon. If they can’t agree the court is always available to make the decision.

The Child Support Worksheet

The weekly cost of work-related childcare is placed directly on the New Jersey Child Support Worksheet and like the health care adjustment is allocated between the parents in proportion to their percentage of the total combined  parental income. For example, if the mother earns $800 per week and the father earns $800 per week each of them would be responsible for 50% of the childcare cost. If  the mother is the custodial parent and she pays the childcare provider $300 per week, the father would owe her $150 per week to pay for his 50% responsibility for childcare costs.

Work-related vs. Non-Work-related Childcare Expenses

A common question regarding childcare expenses is what constitutes work-related childcare? Generally speaking babysitting in the evening is not considered a work-related childcare expense. However, babysitting after-school until the custodial parent gets home from work would be considered a work-related childcare expense. Similarly, if a custodial parent employs a nanny and one of the nannies duties is providing childcare the portion of the nanny’s time dedicated to watching the children would be a work-related childcare expense. However, it is debatable whether the portion of the nanny’s pay which is for cleaning and other household duties could appropriately be deemed work-related childcare.

Nanny’s, Social Security Taxes, and Immigration Laws

An issue which has been popping up with more and more frequency is the situation in which a custodial parent employs a nanny who is not a legal resident of the United States. If the nanny is not able to work legally in the country the custodial parent cannot employ them without violating numerous tax, social security, and immigration laws. A word to the wise: If you are going to employ a nanny and claim contribution from the other parent, make sure that you are complying with all laws regarding employment of a nanny. Otherwise, the other parent may justifiably object to contributing to the nanny’s pay.

Payment of Childcare Expense – Direct, Through Probation, or Reimbursement

Another issue which comes up frequently regarding childcare is whether to have the non-custodial parent’s contribution paid (1) directly to the childcare provider; (2) through the child support garnished by the probation department; or (3) directly to the custodial parent by the non-custodial parent. Each option has pros and cons.

The most efficient method is to have the childcare payment made directly to the childcare provider by the non-custodial parent. However, if the non-custodial parent is a late-payer, or a non-payer, the provider may refuse services until they are paid in full.

If payment is made to the custodial parent through the probation department the plus is that the monies will be extracted from the non-custodial parent’s paycheck as a part of child support (if the custodial parent requests wage garnishment). However, probation department  payments do not always flow through to the custodial parent on a regular basis. So the custodial parent may still have to advance the monies and then wait for the probation payment to arrive at a later date. Another potential issue with this option is that if the daycare payment changes or when it ends both parents will have to work with the probation department to amend the amount of money that the probation department deducts as child support from the non-custodial parent’s paycheck. If there is disagreement on the date or amount to be adjusted a court appearance may be necessary.

The third option is for the custodial parent to advance the payment and then get directly reimbursed by the non-custodial parent later in the month. In the right situation (where the non-custodial parent is reliable) a simple bank account-to-bank account monthly recurring payment can be set up to handle the reimbursement.

I have been helping clients resolve childcare expense issues in Bergen, Hudson, Passaic and Essex counties for more than 20 years. If you have any questions about childcare costs and contributions don’t hesitate to contact me at 201-731-3086 or via e-mail using the contact form. Either way your consultation is free of charge.